It seems some major passenger experience improvements are inbound for Southwest Airlines – with a few surprisingly minor detail things that have caught my eye.
Southwest goes ViaSat, upgrades Anuvu’s equipment
Southwest is to deploy next-generation Ka-band satellite in-flight connectivity (IFC) system to be factory-installed on all new aircraft deliveries, starting this fall, to support Gate-to-Gate connectivity, whilst allowing passengers the ability to stream content and entertainment, watch live television, and access social media platforms and productivity applications on any internet-ready device.
Meanwhile, Southwest is upgrading WiFi equipment on its existing fleet with longstanding connectivity provider Anuvu’s latest-generation hardware capable of providing a significant improvement in speed and bandwidth up to 10 times the current hardware on board. Plans are for the Anuvu latest-generation hardware to be onboard 50 in-service aircraft by the end of May, with a projected 350 aircraft upgraded by the end of October.
Southwest plans to install the latest-generation onboard USB A and USB C power ports on every seat in the aircraft, with a space-saving system that will not compromise legroom – with the unit built into the back of the seat. The airline plans to bring this new convenience and capability onboard 737 MAX aircraft beginning in early 2023.
That’s all Southwest mentioned. However, some things aren’t being mentioned, if we’re going via the renderings.
Your writer was looking at the seats last night in a tweet by Southwest and started squinting:
Something’s coming… 👀 pic.twitter.com/dDRh6xxFVm
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) May 11, 2022
That’s one of the easiest shots I’ve seen with that new seat-back power – installed in the back of the seat, rather than in the base – so it should be easier to reach (because everyone loves going to the floor to plug a USB cable in).
However, zooming in reveals more about the connector.
It’s amazing what pinch-to-zoom does.
It looks like Southwest will be using an Astronics EmPower based system, with a standard USB-A receptacle at the bottom, with no power output listed. At the top is the USB-C connector, with the letters “60W” next to them, indicating a maximum power output on this slot.
This indicates the USB-C slot presented should be capable of powering laptops through them without too many issues (60 watts should be enough power to deliver power to Chromebooks, Apple Macbooks, Dell Laptops, HP Laptops and so on – in fact, anything that accepts a charge over USB-C).
We love a good overhead bin at Economy Class and Beyond. Southwest is making room in the cabin for carry-on items with larger overhead bins that also bring easier access to store and retrieve luggage onboard. The larger overhead bins will be on aircraft deliveries beginning early next year.
Bob Jordan, Chief Executive Officer said
“You can never stop working to get better, and as our beloved Founder Herb famously said, ‘If you rest on your laurels, you’ll get a thorn in your butt!’ We have a long and proud history of offering Legendary Customer Service and warm Hospitality, and we have bold plans and significant investments to modernize and enhance the Southwest Experience,”
“As we continue to welcome back loyal Customers and win new ones, these initiatives, combined with the best People in the industry, support our Purpose of connecting People to what’s most important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.”
Ryan Green, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer said:
“Top of our list is giving our Customers reliable connections in the air to those things that are important and accessible to them on the ground,”
“We’re investing in our onboard connectivity and bandwidth available to each Customer with upgraded technology that’s now installing across our existing fleet, a strategy to diversify our WiFi vendors on upcoming aircraft deliveries, and plugging Southwest Customers into in-seat power to keep them charged while in the air.”
Don Buchman, Viasat’s vice president and general manager, Commercial Aviation, added:
“We admire Southwest Airlines’ deeply customer-centric vision. The overall passenger experience is enhanced by delivering connectivity inflight that is the same as the on the ground experience, from streaming your favorite video content to live television and accessing other internet-based applications during all phases of flight. We look forward to being a part of Southwest’s commitment to continually upping the bar.”
On the addition of in-seat power, Tony Roach, Vice President of Customer Experience and Customer Relations said:
“The ability to keep your devices charged while you are connected inflight is a request that we’ve heard consistently in ongoing conversations with our Customers,”
“With so much that our Customers love about doing business with Southwest, we’re constantly listening to our Employees and our Customers for improvement opportunities, and we’re excited to share some additional news and updates on this ongoing work.”
Interesting times ahead
It seems that Southwest is making some positive changes for those who are going to be aboard their aircraft for any length of time, with upgraded bandwidth on way from Anuvu (or what was called Global Eagle in the past), deploying new Ka based connectivity using the Viasat constellations (with the equipment line-fitted from the factory), as well as adding in updated seats with good power options for those are flying the carrier.
As well as bigger overhead bins – which are always welcome.
When put together, there are some interesting travel options ahead.
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